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FFW urges Northrail to stop laying-off workers on Labor Day
April 30, 2011

While workers' groups converge in different parts of the metropolis to ask for protection of jobs on Labor Day, an employer seems to have no qualms about doing the exact opposite. What's worse is that the company is owned by the government.

The North Luzon Railways Corporation (NORTHRAIL) is laying-off workers effective May 1, 2011.

"We urge the NORTHRAIL to hold in abeyance it temporary lay-off of workers effective today," said the Atty. Sonny Matula, National Vice President of the Federation of Free Workers (FFW).

Earlier, members of the United Employees of NORTHRAIL, a chapter of the FFW, composed mainly of the 70 affected employees. were made to understand that the main reason behind their "temporary lay-off" is the suspension of the NORTHRAIL-SINOMACH Contract.

But recent development may prove otherwise. The contract would not be suspended after all.

"FFW members were pleasantly surprised by the developments reported in several broadsheets." It said that "the contract between the North Luzon Railways Corporation and Chinese Contractor SINOMACH for the rehabilitation of the NORTHRAIL will proceed after the Department of Transportation and Communications cleared it from allegations of anomalies in its execution."

Transportation and Communication Undersecretary for Railways, Glicerio Sicat, was even quoted as saying that "there won't be a cancellation of contract with the Chinese Group".

"If the contract is a go, then there is no need to lay-off workers anymore," the FFW said.

"This is a positive development for NORTHRAIL employees because the basis for the workers' temporary lay-off was the suspension of the contract. Hence, it is just rationale for them to conclude that they will be immediately reinstated or their temporary lay-off will not proceed," Matula opined.

Misinformation?

NORTHRAIL management contends that it selected workers for laying-off based on their positions, on the assumption that their duties and responsibilities are no longer necessary while the contract is suspended.

However, DOTC Secretary Jose "Ping" De Jesus was quoted as saying that the "employees of NORTHRAIL will be trimmed by 76 due to "overstaffing". Northrail will reduce its manpower by almost half from 168 to 92". He also pointed out that "those who were laid off served non-technical positions."

"It seems that the Honorable Secretary was misinformed," the FFW said. Contrary to the statement attributed Secretary De Jesus, 46 out of the 70 laid-off employees are holding technical positions, who are mostly from the Project Management Office. Only 24 came from support services. Then, in one of the Technical Departments that has 21 employees, only the manager was retained.

"We hope laying-off workers is not part of the surprise package in store for workers on Labor Day," the FFW said. MalacaƱang was earlier quoted as saying that in lieu of an announcement of a wage increase, an announcement of a benefits package for workers was being prepared for Labor Day.

"We are asking PNoy to certify as urgent the Security of Tenure Bill. Stopping the lay-off of NORTHRAIL workers will demonstrate his commitment to protect jobs," the FFW said.

"We seek an open dialogue. Social dialogue as one of the pillars of decent work, is a priority of the Philippine Labor and Employment Plan (PLEP)," the FFW said. The PLEP, a supplement to the Philippine Development Plan, has just been launched by the Department of Labor and Employment a few days ago.

"We want to clear the air. An open dialogue between the workers and management is needed to clarify the repercussions of the DOTC declaration that the contract between NORTHRAIL and SINOMACH stays," Matula said.

 

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